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The Woes Of Being Managed By An Under-Performing IT Provider

By David Stephens crack

It still amazes me to this day, how often I go into a firm and the client will tell me point blank “yes, we are getting the best out of our IT, there’s nothing more we need”. 99% of the time, without putting a too-finer point on it, the statement “we are getting the best out of our IT” is a load of rubbish.

The issue here however, is that the average company director doesn’t have the time to sit down, read up on all of the latest Microsoft articles, and tell their IT firm what they want out of their brand new Small Business Server setup - it is in the hands of their IT firm to tell them the capabilities and set it up accordingly. And here lies the problem. If the IT firm hasn’t taken the time to learn about all these great new features incorporated into Small Business Server 2008, how on earth are they ever going to convey this to their client?

After visiting a client on an emergency call out a few weeks back I was inspired to write this article. It wasn’t possible to load Outlook on their workstations as their server was in a bad way (more on that later!), so I fired up Outlook Web Access so the director could get to his email. For the uninitiated, this essentially gives you access to your email via a web browser, similar to Hotmail or GoogleMail. “what the...how on...who’s mailbox is....I’VE BEEN ASKING FOR THAT FOR YEARS!” It turns out he’d been asking his IT company (who will remain nameless) for remote access to his email almost since they installed his IT setup. They told him it wasn’t possible with the systems that he’d paid for - Small Business Server 2000 - which although now not considered “cutting edge” is still a very capable product for the SMB, and very capable of providing web access to email.

Now this begs the question, why was he told this? One could argue that it was a dirty salesman tactic, used simply to cream a bit more money out of a client. What became apparent however, is that it was simply down to lack of product knowledge.

Back to the initial reason I wrote this article - the emergency callout. I got a call a few Sundays ago from a friend of a friend (his IT company didn’t work weekends!), who had gone into work on Sunday to tie up a few loose ends before the start of business on Monday. He opened his email and been greeted by 1000s of spam messages, tried to delete them, Outlook ground to a halt so he restarted. He then sent a few emails that weren’t being received by the recipients. I turned up and had a look and it was immediately apparent what had happened. They had been hit by a spam flood, McAfee had tried to scan every single email that arrived, gone mad (yes, that is a technical term!), then consumed all available system resources and ground the server to a halt.

The result of this is what my client saw - emails weren’t flowing and extremely slow system response, along with a complete feeling of panic! I sorted the issue and gave all their systems a quick going over. McAfee AntiSpam had been installed on the server, yet whoever did this didn’t check to ensure the system was running smoothly after - it wasn’t. I subsequently ordered a memory upgrade (for a measley £50) and it solved the problem. “Am I imagining that Outlook is running faster? Oh and web browsing is faster too...” No...you weren’t. This again was down to the memory upgrade on the server - the server was now running extremely smoothly, so all associated applications that it runs will also run faster too.

What became immediately apparent is that they had been neglected by their IT provider. Perhaps out of complacency, or simply out of lack of knowledge. “Neglected!?” I hear you say. Yes...neglected. Let me explain: Over time, (as much as Microsoft will deny it), operating systems require more resources to
operate. If you don’t keep your system in line with these requirements, then it’s performance will drop through the floor - this is what had happened to my client, compounded by the fact McAfee had gone mad. Additionally, the last few virii that have been reported in the media have all targeted systems that haven’t been kept up to date by their owners. Microsoft release system updates on a monthly basis - you simply have to install these unless you have a damn good reason not to. Systems that were kept up to date carried on working, laughing in the face of the systems that weren’t, hobbling along, trying to fulfill their owners needs and failing miserably.

The long and the short of it is - most of us can’t run the risk of our systems being down for a day. Do you have a spare server and workstations sat in the garage, ready to go in case of a problem? I don’t, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. By using a company that will manage your IT proactively (preferably my company) - you can have piece of mind that your systems will be looked after properly, by a team that are ahead of the curve and that will do their utmost to prevent problems like my client had! Why not give us a call to arrange a free systems healthcheck - and be sure that you are getting the most out of your systems, that they are configured correctly, and most importantly - being looked after!